December 22, 2022

U.S. Senate Reauthorizes Bipartisan STAR Act to Combat Childhood Cancer

Van Hollen, Reed, Capito, and Murkowski lead effort to advance childhood cancer research, bolster work to identify and track incidence of childhood cancer, and enhance the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors

In an effort to help thousands of children who undergo cancer treatment each year, support the pediatric cancer community, and find new cures and effective treatments, this week the U.S. Senate voted to reauthorize the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act of 2022 (S. 4120), legislation led by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The Senators’ bill reauthorizes the Childhood Cancer STAR Act, the most comprehensive childhood cancer bill ever passed by Congress, for another five years. The original bill was initially introduced in the House by then-Congressman Van Hollen; it was later passed in 2018.

The STAR Act helps advance pediatric cancer research and child-focused cancer treatments, while also improving childhood cancer surveillance and providing resources for survivors and those impacted by childhood cancer. Since being signed into law the STAR Act has helped deliver over $120 million to fund promising childhood cancer research and assist patients and families battling cancer.

“We want a future where no child has to fight for their life in a battle with cancer. That’s why we authored and passed the Childhood Cancer STAR Act to bolster childhood cancer research, and why we fought to further build on its progress through this reauthorization of funds. This important bill will support continued advances in cancer research to deliver better treatments and lifesaving cures, many of which are being developed at Maryland’s NIH and NCI. The House should take up this legislation immediately so we can take another step forward in the fight against childhood cancer,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Every two minutes, a child somewhere in the world is diagnosed with cancer and we're in a race to find better treatments, therapies, and a cure. Reauthorizing the STAR Act means more help for kids battling cancer. It targets federal research to ensure the medical community is better equipped to diagnose and treat pediatric cancers and assist young patients and their families,” said Senator Reed. “This reauthorization will help lead to major advancements in treating and curing pediatric cancer. It will develop new strategies to help survivors overcome late health effects, such as secondary cancers, and offer a lifetime of support.”

“I was incredibly proud to be part of the passage of the STAR Act in 2018, which has made an important difference in the lives of children with cancer, as well as childhood cancer survivors and their families. Since that time, the legislation has resulted in unprecedented opportunities and funding for childhood cancer research, allowed us to better understand and track the incidence of disease, and improved the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors. I’m thrilled the Senate has passed this meaningful legislation, which will ultimately allow these opportunities to continue and bring us closer to a world without childhood cancer,” Senator Capito said.

“This bill takes a multifaceted approach to addressing childhood cancer by boosting research efforts and bolstering data collection. Through this legislation, we have an opportunity to help improve the quality of life for all the brave children who’ve survived cancer—and hope that future generations don’t experience this terrible disease at all,” said Senator Murkowski. “Our bipartisan bill is comprehensive, focusing on supporting survivors and finding treatments. I’m proud to be part of this effort to end childhood cancer.”

There are over one hundred different subtypes of childhood cancers.  Most new cancer diagnoses in children are for leukemia (28.1%) and brain/CNS cancers (26.5%), while malignant epithelial neoplasms and melanomas (23.3%) and brain/CNS cancers (21.9%) are top cancers for adolescents, according to Children’s Cancer Cause.

Childhood cancer research has progressed in recent years, but after accidents, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14, according to the American Cancer Society. Health experts estimate that nearly 10,500 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2022.

As a longtime champion of solutions to tackle childhood cancer, last Spring, the Senator met with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and a bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers to discuss the future of fighting cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases in the United States. The Senator later joined President Biden to reignite the Cancer Moonshot and establish a new agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, to better prevent, detect, and diagnose cancer to save lives.

U.S. Representatives Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) co-authored companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. House must act before the bill can be sent to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

The Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Reauthorization Act of 2022 (S. 4120) will:

  • Expand Opportunities for Childhood Cancer Research: Due to the relatively small population of children with cancer and the geographic distance between these children, researching childhood cancer can be challenging. As such, the Childhood Cancer STAR Act reauthorizes and expands existing efforts at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to collect biospecimens for childhood cancer patients enrolled in NCI-sponsored clinical trials to collect and maintain relevant clinical, biological, and demographic information on all children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer.
  • Improve Childhood Cancer Surveillance: Building upon previous efforts, this bill authorizes grants to state cancer registries to identify and track incidences of child, adolescent, and young adult cancer. This funding will be used to identify and train reporters of childhood cancer cases, secure infrastructure to ensure early reporting and capture of child cancer incidences, and support the collection of cases into a national childhood cancer registry.
  • Help Improve Quality of Life Opportunities for Childhood Cancer Survivors: Unfortunately, even after beating cancer, as many as two-thirds of survivors suffer from late effects of their disease or treatment, including secondary cancers and organ damage. This legislation will enhance research on the late effects of childhood cancers, improve collaboration among providers so that doctors are better able to care for this population as they age, and establish a new pilot program to begin to explore innovative models of care for childhood cancer survivors.
  • Ensure Pediatric Expertise at the National Institutes of Health (NIH): Requires the inclusion of at least one expert in pediatric oncology on the National Cancer Advisory Board and will improve childhood health reporting requirements to include pediatric cancer.